tv DHS Secretary Mayorkas Testifies on Unaccompanied Minors at the Border CSPAN May 13, 2021 10:15am-12:01pm EDT
mr. lynch: but for president trump's speech, do you think anyone would have marched on the capitol and tried to overrun the capitol without the president's remarks? i know you've answered this question several times, but i'd like you to answer it for the committee. mr. miller: i think i'd like to modify my original assessment. mr. lynch: why am i not surprised about that? mr. miller: based on what chief conte said, we're getting more information by the day, by the minute about what happened. to highlight some other observations that were made, it's clear now although we're going to find out through the department of justice process and the legal system, it seems clear there was some sort of conspiracy where there were organized assault elements that intended to assault -- [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021]
[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] chair peters: the committee will come to order. secretary mayorkas, welcome back. and thank you for your willingness to testify and your continued service to our nation. we appreciate that. i know that you and the biden administration as a whole inherited a number of very serious challenges, and i've been impressed with what you've accomplished in a relatively short time. your efforts to support the wide distribution of vaccines to every community so we can get through this pandemic and your concrete actions to combat domestic terrorism, including white national violence, is appreciated. and while you help ensure communities across the country are safer and more secure, we know that it is a big job that requires your constant attention. and while doing all of that, your department has also
grappled with the situation on our southern border, addressing the humanitarian challenges presented by the arrivals of unaccompanied children while also working to keep our border secure. and that is the focus of today's hearing. and i look forward to hearing about some of your successes and the challenges that you continue to face and the support and resources that your department needs to effectively carry out your mission while ensuring appropriate care of people who are in d.h.s. custody. although we saw higher than usual numbers of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border earlier this spring, these numbers appear to be decreasing. even so, the significant numbers of migrants seeking asylum in the united states continues to present a very serious challenge. our nation rightfully serves as a beacon for those who are fleeing persecution. we have an obligation to ensure that the migrants on our
border -- that our border security professionals encounter are being treated with dignity and have appropriate food, care, and shelter. but we also must ensure those efforts do not restrict the ability of border security personnel to continue their critical frontline mission to stop illicit drugs, contraband, and other illegal activity along our borders and help keep americans safe. mr. secretary, many of the challenges that you inherited were made worse because of the actions of the previous administration. the trump administration's decision to suspend long standing legal protections afforded to minors and those fleeing persecution forced significant numbers of asylum seekers to wait in a very precarious condition in mexico. as a result, when president biden took office in january, there was already a significant population of vulnerable asylum-seekers, especially
minors, waiting to seek refuge in the united states from violence or persecution in their home countries. the ongoing pandemic has compounded challenges faced by both the department of the homeland security and health and human services as they work to house unaccompanied children. covid-19 health protocols have limited the amount of space and staff available at state-licensed shelters. these factors resulted in more than 5,000 children at a time being held for days in the care of border patrol agents who are simply not trained in childcare. these minors should have been transferred ideally within hours to health and human services facilities where licensed child welfare professionals ensure they receive adequate care while waiting for release to sponsors in the united states. i've had the opportunity to visit the southern border twice
so far this year to see both the border facilities and the shelters for unaccompanied children firsthand and speak directly with the folks on the ground who are working to address these challenges. during my most recent visit, i spoke with dedicated border patrol agents who are personally supplying toys and food to unaccompanied minors in their care at their own expense. they were going above and beyond their official responsibilities, and we all appreciate that effort. and i'm happy to see d.h.s.'s recent efforts to help health and human services identify additional shelter locations and expedite the safe transfer of these children, and it's beginning to show positive results. i'm encouraged to see a drastic reduction in the number of these vulnerable children in border patrol facilities and they're staying for shorter periods of
time. while the situation at our southern border continues to improve, thanks to the biden administration's efforts, i will say, unfortunately, many challenges still persist, especially because of the population of migrants who are continuing to flee incredibly dangerous conditions in their home countries. this committee and congress must work together to address the root causes of migration flows and ensure that the federal agencies in charge of responding to these challenges have the right resources and support. this is a big task, but it is not insurmountable. secretary mayorkas, i look forward to hearing from you and how congress can work with the administration to secure our borders and ensure we have sufficient personnel, provide asylum-seekers with appropriate care, and ensure asylum applicants are processed efficiently and fairly to help address these concerns. with that i turn it over to
ranking member portman for your opening comments. senator portman: thank you, chairman peters. i appreciate your moving ahead with this hearings and it's critical we have it and appreciate the bipartisan oversight of the critical issues we'll talk about today. more than 50,000 unaccompanied children have come to our border during the 113 days since the first day of the biden administration when they began to immediately put in place new policies. typically, these kids were brought by unscrupulous traffickers and too often abused along the way. this chart behind me shows what has happened. it uses customs and border protection data to show the crisis today is unprecedented. far worse than it was last year. and even substantially worse than 2019 when everyone considered it a crisis. here is 2019. here is the inauguration.
here's where we are today. because the focus today is on unaccompanied children, these numbers are not even -- do not even include families which are also coming in in large numbers, 50 times higher than last year at this time. single adults, a 20-year high. has predicted by the secretary, 20-year high in crossings. or, of course, the drug trafficking, which is a huge concern. we know that seizures of deadly fentanyl, for example, are at a record high. we don't know how many of these deadly drugs are getting through. but it's most of them. last month, over 108,000 single adults were apprehended at the border, up from 96,000 in march. and, again, seven times greater than last april. on top of that, the border patrol conservatively estimates that 40,000 who crossed illegally got away and were not
apprehended in april. we have no idea who these individuals are. our federal agents at the border are, of course, overwhelmed. my hope is today we can quickly get past the debate on the nature of this unprecedented surge so we can turn to solutions to stop the summer and ensure -- surge and ensure vulnerable children are not further endangered by the policy choices being made here in washington, d.c. mr. secretary, it's about two months since you, chairman peters, the ranking and chairs of the d.h.s. subcommittee on appropriations and i traveled to el paso to see this crisis at the border firsthand. i appreciate your support of our trip and i have appreciated our conversations since. what i learned on our fact-finding trip is the border patrol is overwhelmed and short staffed because the overwhelming pressure at the border from not only unaccompanied minors arriving but also the increase
of adult and families as we discussed. i'm proud of the border patrol agents and welcome the progress being made of getting out of the situation we are in where so many children were crowded into c.b.p. facilities. they have now gone into other government shelters run by h.h.s. so now frontline agents can go to their critical duties along the border. border patrol agents are doing the best they can in a very difficult situation. and we must support them, including providing additional resources. i learned the pressure on the border patrol of managing the influx of migrants, particularly processing children and families as they are detained has taken them away from border enforcement activities. human traffickers and drug smugglers know that. they are using unaccompanied children and families to divert border patrol agents so they can cross the border with other illegal entries and illicit and deadly narcotics, such as fentanyl, that are killing
ohioans and others across our country with record levels of drug overdoses and hurting families across the country. i learned that the surge of children puts those children at risk of abuse and trafficking, even once they're in the united states. remember, these children are only held until sponsors can be found in the interior of the united states. then, as we have learned, regardless of the asylum adjudication that might occur, hardly any of these children will be returned to their home country. in fact, those who came in the last surge in 2019, i'm told are almost all still here in the united states. we've all heard the horrifying stories of the trauma some children experience on their way north. we heard of sexual assault and other abuses, including, unfortunately, at h.h.s. facilities. now hundreds of federal employees with no formal
experience or training in childcare are being brought in from other jobs around the country to help care for these children. i appreciate those volunteers, but i'm also concerned they don't have the training and experience to be able to properly care for them. h.h.s. is repeating the same mistakes that the two previous administrations as they deal with this crisis. with the overwhelming number of children h.h.s. has released children quickly without proper background checks of sponsors or other adults in the same household. we know that in some cases in the past children have even been sent back to their traffickers and h.h.s. has lost contact with these kids. i'm glad that customs and border protection has moved children to h.h.s. again, but these children have only been moved from one federal agency to another, and now h.h.s. is in crisis. moving from one unsafe overcrowded facility to another is not a measurement of success. nearly neither -- neither is
releasing them to sponsors that have not been properly vetted. we've seen this before. while chairman of the permanent subcommittee on investigations, we issued three bipartisan investigative reports and held three hearings over two administrations on this very issue. we found that h.h.s. failed to conduct background checks and as a result released children to human traffickers, including some who were placed into forced labor at an egg farm in ohio. unaccompanied children remain at risk because no federal agency claims legal responsibility or authority to ensure they are not being trafficked or abused once placed with a sponsor. there's no accountability. these are all downstream problems that exist because of the surges and the incentives that encourage parents to send their children with human smugglers to enter our country unlawfully. the current policy is essentially that any child from anywhere other than mexico who shows up at our southern border
is allowed to come into the united states for an indefinite period of time. as long as that is true, in my view, the surge will continue. i support more help to the central american countries and so-called northern triangle countries where most of these unaccompanied children are coming from, but no one that looks at this problem seriously can believe that any amount of aid to central america will change the pull to come here in the short term. properly targeted foreign assistans in the -- assistance in the region can help over time but the crisis at the border is now. there are three actions the administration must do and two actions congress can do. one is to support the border patrol with more agents, more technology, and certainly the completion of the parts of the border wall that are already paid for. my hope is we made some progress on this issue just in the last 24 hours. second, we must provide incentives for children to apply for asylum from their home country, not to come to the
border. we must reinstate the safe third country agreement so they can apply there. and third, we should require immediate asylum adjudication at the border for children and families and adults. it will require some resources, but it's well worth it. we should not be releasing children to sponsors in the interior of the united states pending a decision we should be making a decision at the border. we should also pass our bipartisan bill, the responsibility for unaccompanied minors act, to require better background checks and to ensure accountability to be sure h.h.s. keeps track of these children who've already come in. we also need to pass my legislation to mandate everify to reduce the jobs magnet which is behind all this. the sad reality is some of these children are exploited and abused, including being forced to work in violation of labor laws in order to pay off their smugglers. this is happening right now here in this country is unacceptable.
mr. secretary, again, i appreciate you being here today and i look forward to discussing all these issues in more depth with you. thank you, mr. chairman. chair peters: thank you, senator portman. secretary mayorkas, it is the practice of the homeland security and government affairs committee to swear in witnesses. so if you will stand and raise your right hand. do you swear that the testimony you will give before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god? secretary mayorkas: i do. chair peters: thank you. secretary mayorkas is the seventh secretary of the department of homeland security. previously he served the department as deputy secretary and as a director of u.s. citizenship and immigration services and began his public service at the department of justice. secretary, thank you, again, for appearing before this committee. i now recognize you for your seven minutes of opening remarks. secretary mayorkas: thank you
very much, chairman peters, ranking member portman and distinguished members of the committee. good morning and thank you for the opportunity to be here with you today. this hearing addresses a subject of intense focus at the department of homeland security. we are addressing the needs of unaccompanied children who arrive at our southern border without a parent or legal guardian. children who have fled torture, persecution, extreme violence, and poverty. many who have crossed mexico in the grasp of smugglers with the hope of reaching safety and uniting with their parent or close relative here in the united states. these are children, many of tender age. to address the needs of these children, we mobilized capabilities from our different agencies and offices. we called upon the dedication, expertise, and talent of the
workforce of the department of homeland security. i am privileged to speak with you today about the challenges we confronted, the actions we have taken to overcome those challenges, and the extraordinary results we have achieved thus far. first, the challenges. we began our work with systems and tools that the prior administration had dismantled, and with assistance, programs that have been torn down or cut short. we had to rebuild while at the same time address the surge of unaccompanied children that had begun in april of 2020. many months before we took office. and our efforts had to be undertaken in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic. we are dedicated to an orderly, safe, and humane immigration system. and, therefore, we stopped the prior administration's policy of expelling the unaccompanied children. we did not turn them away. because the prior administration failed to increase the
department of health and human services' capacity to receive the unaccompanied children from border patrol stations within the required time frame, children were staying in border patrol stations for too long. as i have said before, a border patrol station is no place for a child. in late march, more than 5,700 children were in border patrol stations, and the average length of their stay was 133 hours. we managed the situation because of, quite simply, the selfless dedication, the heroism of the united states border patrol. i repeated then what i had said two weeks earlier -- that we have a plan, that we are executing on our plan, and that it will take time. this is what we do, and we know how to do it. on march 13, i directed our
federal emergency management agency, or fema, to support an all of government effort to assist h.h.s. in transferring and sheltering the children. then, i directed our expert u.s. citizenship and immigration services personnel to serve as caseworkers to further support h.h.s., helping unite the children with their verified relatives here in the u.s. our department's dedicated and talented workforce volunteered to provide further assistance. we also deployed our chief medical officer and his team's expertise, instituting covid-19 health and safety protocols and mobilizing additional medical teams, including those of the united states coast guard. it is now about six weeks later. on march 29, more than 5,700 children were in border patrol stations. two days ago, there were 455.
on march 29, 4,078 children were in border patrol stations, more than the maximum allowed 72 hours. two days ago, there were none. on march 29, the average length of time a child spent at a border patrol station was 133 hours. two days ago, on may 11, the average time was 22 hours. the challenge is not behind us, but the results are dramatic. and not only did we mobilize the talented workforce of the department of homeland security in partnership with our colleagues at h.h.s., we have also been re-engineering the process from start to finish and creating new efficiencies. these changes are reducing the time a child spends in the shelter and care of h.h.s. before being united with her or
his parent or legal guardian in the u.s. more broadly, to effect more foundational change, our immigration strategies focuses on three key areas. first, we are addressing the root causes of migration for the northern triangle countries. addressing the reasons why families send their children in the first place. second, we are building legal pathways for children and others to come to the united states if they qualify under the laws that congress passed many years ago so they do not think they have to take the dangerous journey north. and third, we are urging you to pass immigration reform. we are all in agreement that the system is broken. we need to come together to pass the proposed legislation that fixes the broken system. thank you, again, for the opportunity to be here today. i look forward to answering your
questions. chair peters: thank you, mr. secretary, for your opening comments. i just want to be clear, as i listened to your comments, as you opened up, you stated that the number of unaccompanied children that are arriving at the southern border started to rise in the second half of last year, tripling between june and december of 2020, is that correct? secretary mayorkas: mr. chairman, the surge of unaccompanied children first began in april of last year, april of 2020, and it swelled from there. chair peters: so, could you explain how the trump administration anticipated and began making preparations for these -- this increased arrival as these unaccompanied children are coming in, what were they doing to prepare for this trend that was clear last year? secretary mayorkas: mr. chairman, they did nothing to facilitate addressing the surge.
what they did was they dismantled the tools that we had to address it, and they tore down the programs that could have helped alleviate the pressure. chair peters: they were dismantling facilities while we're seeing the surge begin, they were -- that seems -- doesn't seem logical to me. secretary mayorkas: mr. chairman, in my view, it was antithetical to not only our values and our principles but also our operational needs. chair peters: if efforts to expand h.h.s. shelter capacity had started earlier, back to the time we are talking about, in the fall or early winter, could bottle necks that led to the 5,000 children in c.b.p., would that have been avoided? secretary mayorkas: most certainly, mr. chairman. in fact, the conditions that were depicted in photographs that troubled us all, but two months ago, those photographs
would have depicted very -- a very different situation at border patrol stations had we had the capacity for through-put that the operational efficiency of the system is predicated upon. but we didn't have that capacity at h.h.s. we didn't have the shelters and the processes in place. and the resources in place to achieve that. that is what we have built. chair peters: that's what you inherited and you had to work pretty quickly to try to build it and expand h.h.s. capacity in order to transfer minors. how could -- how account -- how can the department expertise, such as the fema rapid response and contracting capabilities that i know you're using to expand that capacity, how can they be better leveraged in the future? secretary mayorkas: i think one of the things we are looking at, mr. chairman, is actually equipping the department of health and human services with a federal workforce. it is right now built on a
contracting architecture, reliant on vendors. and one of the models we're taking a look at is whether there can be a permanent federal workforce and then a contracting architecture to address surges as they arise, because we all know that surges arise periodically. they arose in 2019. they arose in 2016, in 2014, and well before then. migration is a very dynamic and fluid challenge that we have faced for many, many years. chair peters: so mr. secretary, i know many children arrive at the southern border with caretakers who are not their parents. and they are separated under u.s. law from them. this policy was developed with child welfare in mind to ensure that a child is not being
trafficked, a victim of trafficking or otherwise being taken advantage of. at the same time this policy can cause some heartbreaking separation. even if they are temporary. aunts can be separated from nephews and nieces, grandparents can be separated from grandchildren. during my trip to the border last month, for example, i met a young boy, very young boy who had arrived with his older brother but was separated from him and being processed separately and therefore was alone. do you know how many children arrive with caretakers who are not their parents, do you have any numbers related to that? secretary mayorkas: mr. chairman, i don't have those numbers with me. i would welcome the opportunity to see whether we collect that data and circle back with you. but if i could make a couple points, if i may, mr. chairman. first of all, certainly i grew
up in the law enforcement arena. i was a federal prosecutor for 12 years. i believe in enforcing the law. and the law includes the humanitarian laws that congress passed. those two are deserving of enforcement and, frankly, it is our obligation and commitment in government to enforce those as well. and one law that the prior administration did not enforce was the trafficking victims protection re-authorization act. and that is our obligation to enforce. that is what we are doing. secondly, if i may, building back better is not a slogan. it is a mandate. it is a mandate i am obligated to carry out as a member of president biden's cabinet. and that is exactly what we are doing. and so the issue that you raise is something we are very carefully looking at.
and not only have we brought our capacities, our talent, our expertise to bear to address the surge of unaccompanied children that started in april of 2020, but we're taking a look at the process, the system, and how we can re-engineer it for a better future. and that re-engineering has well begun and is under way and will continue to be executed consistent with the mandate that president biden directed me to execute. chair peters: the government's ability to ensure children are moved out of c.b.p. facilities in a timely manner is dependent not only on h.h.s.'s bed capacity but h.h.s. ability to owe efficiently -- to efficiently release children to sponsors here in the united states. you've already discussed some of the ways that d.h.s. has assisted h.h.s. both in increasing bed capacity and making sponsor release process
much more efficient. and while i realize this is not specifically a d.h.s. jurisdiction, can you elaborate protections that are in place to make sure children are not being released in a dangerous situation? secretary mayorkas: mr. chairman, we have brought expertise to bear on that part of the process as well. we have dedicated very experienced -- very experienced asylum and refugee officers from u.s. citizenship and immigration services who are expert in verifying the identity of individuals, and we work in tandem with experts from the department of health and human services to ensure that the individuals in whose care the children will be placed are qualified to be caretakers for those children. there's an extraordinarily important data point here. approximately 40% of the children who come to the border
unaccompanied have a parent or legal guardian here in the united states. over 90% of them have relatives here in the united states. and that is very relevant to our verification responsibilities that we execute in the hands of expertise. chair peters: all right. thank you, mr. secretary. ranking member portman, you're recognized for your questions. senator portman: i thank the chairman. i said at the outset, i hope we can kind of move on from the debate about the crisis and what happened and how we got here. i have a lot of respect for you, as you know, mr. secretary. i'm not able to sit here and not comment on this idea that somehow this is donald trump's fault. i mean, you can say that the trump administration should have been letting children in, but you have said instead you think it was inhumane what they were doing by turning children away based on title 42 which
basically said during the covid-19 period we weren't going to let folks in. and so that's fine. we can have that debate. you can't say that and then also say and the trump administration is at fault because they didn't prepare for the surge. you're saying they didn't allow children to come in because they, you know, believe under title 42 they shouldn't come in, with adults and families, and they didn't make that arduous journey from central america and then at the same time say they are at fault because they didn't prepare for h.h.s. facilities. these are the facts. these are the charts. let's just stipulate this so we can move on and talk about policy. and this chart is very clear. you see where the yellow line is. that is the biden administration inauguration. actually, i was generous. that yellow line should be one
bar to the left. i gave kind of the whole situation a month to kind of percolate so people would know in central america and elsewhere what was going on. here's january 21, this bar right here. look at that surge. i mean, it's obvious what happened. and you said it. you said they weren't, you know, allowing unaccompanied kids or families to come into the border and go into the interior. they stopped that practice. and it had the intended effect. people stopped sending their kids up to central america, smugglers, traffickers. kids, as we said, facing all kinds of assaults and exploitation and so, you know, we can -- we can agree to disagree on what the policy ought to be going forward, i get that. let's at least stipulate as to what happened here and what happened is when the biden administration came in, they made a decision. you were asked to implement it. i remember talking to you at the time. and you realize this was going
to result in some real issues. but the thought was this is a humane way to go. let's allow these kids to come in. and so don't blame the previous administration for not having facilities that they didn't need because they didn't have the surge. again, let's look at the numbers. so here we are. what we do is the question. and for these kids, you said earlier about the trauma some of them have faced. and the difficulties that their families face in central america. i get that. if i was a dad in central america, i would want my kids to have a better life. as i talk to children and families on the border, at the recent trip, they said they do want their families to have better life. these kids say they come here to have the opportunity to have a life where they can not just make more money but have a life
in the united states of america because it's a better place to live. i get that. and i'm all for legal immigration. and i'm all for providing asylum to people who have a credible fear of persecution. what we have done instead is just opened the doors. i would make the point that those children who came in 2019 during the last surge, i would ask you, mr. secretary, those children were allowed to come into the interior of the united states with sponsors. some of those sponsors were unscrupulous, as we know, and we've done investigations on this and had hearings on this and some of these kids were exploited. some were not. but of those children who came in in 2019 who did not receive asylum because they didn't meet the criteria for asylum, how many have been deported and sent back to their home countries? secretary mayorkas: mr. ranking member, may i comment? senator portman: yes, sir. i would like an answer to that. it's where we are now. you look at your own i.c.e.
deportations in the month of april, i am told they are historic low. people aren't being sent back even if they do not receive the asylum. only 15% of individuals from central america, i'm told, you can correct me, are successfully adjudicated. in other words, successfully who claimed asylum received asylum. and my understanding is there is no process in place to send those other folks back to the country of origin. so surely, these smugglers have the opportunity to tell these families in central america, give your child to me and that child will get in the united states and indefinitely will be able to stay there. so that's just a policy we need to look at and we need to change. but could i hear your answer on the 2019 surge and whether it -- how many of those children have been sent back to their home
country? secretary mayorkas: mr. ranking member, assuredly, we'll have the opportunity to discuss the many issues that you have raised. it will take me quite a bit of time to answer them fulsomly but i will do it in bullet point fashion. first of all, my parents brought me here to this country so that my sister and i could have a better life. so i'm very familiar with the challenges that we are addressing and more powerfully and heartbreakingly the challenges that the parents are facing when they send their children to traverse mexico to reach our southern border. secondly, we speak of lawful pathways and support of them and, yet, the prior administration tore those down too. they tore down the central american minors program that provided a lawful pathway for the adjudication of the
children's rights to arrive here in the united states and stay in the united states under the laws that congress passed. but that was torn down. senator portman: mr. secretary, just for a secretary, before we continue the blame game here. how many children were processed over a three-year period through that program, which i support, by the way, and i support reinstating it? secretary mayorkas: that program should have been built up rather than torn down. senator portman: how many children during the obama administration were brought in? secretary mayorkas: i would be pleased to bring that data. senator portman: i think it's 5,000 children. look at these numbers, over three years. so i support in a program. but let's not, you know, think these are going to solve the problems that we face. anyway, please continue. secretary mayorkas: 5,000 children that were expelled. next, i do not think that the prior administration supported legal immigration. they threw up every obstacle
possible to permit legal immigration. fourth, the asylum system is in need of improvement. it is in need of strengthening, and that is precisely what we are dedicated to achieving. it has been a year's long challenge preceding the trump administration, preceding the obama administration that the time of adjudication of asylum claims is too long. we need to -- we need to shorten that. but not at the expense of permitting individuals to develop their legitimate claims through the recovery from the trauma that they might have suffered and so many, in fact, have suffered. and lastly, with respect to our enforcement efforts. we are focused on enforcing the law and focusing on individuals who pose the greatest threat to
public safety, national security, and border security and that is what we are executing upon, just as i did as a federal prosecutor for 12 years in a jurisdiction of approximately 18 million people with limited resources. we said we're going to allocate those resources to have the greatest public safety impact. i'm proceeding no differently as the secretary of homeland security. chair peters: thank you, secretary mayorkas. appreciate it. senator hassan, i need to momentarily step away to an armed services committee so the gavel will be turned over to senator carper. senator hassan, you may ask your questions. senator hassan: thank you very much, mr. chairman, and ranking member portman for holding this hearing, and secretary mayorkas, welcome and thank you for your service. i want to start with a question about interagency coordination. at the end of 2020, even as the number of unaccompanied children began increasing, h.h.s.
capacity to shelter children remained limited. as numbers continued to rise in 2021, d.h.s. mobilized support to provide care, speed up processing, and stand up emergency shelters. this included key assistance from fema, which helped h.h.s. open 14 emergency in-take sites as well as assistance from the u.s. coast guard, and u.s. citizenship and immigration services. the surge of unaccompanied children has slowed recently from more than 52,000 children transferred to o.r.r. facilities in march to approximately 20,000 children in april. secretary, given that the volume may continue to fluctuate, is d.h.s. prepared to remobilize personnel and resources from fema or other parts of d.h.s. when it is necessary? secretary mayorkas: thank you very much, senator. yes, we are. but to something i said rlier we are also focused upon --
earlier, we are also focused on building the capacity of the health and human services so it has the resources to address its elements of the process of the care for young children. senator hassan: well, thank you for that. given the fluctuations, i just think you will need to have some flexibility there and supports available. secretary mayorkas: and we most certainly do. we have that capacity, that surge capacity, if you will, and the president has in fact directed an all-of-government effort to address that. senator hassan: thank you. let me turn to a different topic. there are several interagency and intergovernmental programs to serve to identify threats and to prevent dangerous criminals into our communities. that includes the refugee admissions program, uscis processes to evaluate asylum claims and the national vetting center within d.h.s. secretary mayorkas, do you believe that any of these vetting programs need to be enhanced to ensure our programs
can identify and prevent dangerous people from entering the united states? secretary mayorkas: senator, we have tremendous vetting capabilities within the department of homeland security and across the federal enterprise. they are very strong vetting capabilities of which we are extremely proud and, of course, extremely proud of the personnel at the department of homeland security that have developed and administered those vetting programs. but we never rest on what we have achieved. we are always looking at how everything we do can be strengthened and improved and that is especially the case with our vetting programs with the use of new technologies, new analytic tools, new sources of expertise. senator hassan: thank you. now i want to talk more how we vet sponsors for unaccompanied children. coordinated efforts between the department of homeland security and the department of health and human services have reduced the time that unaccompanied children spend in government facilities.
however, i am concerned, and you heard it from other folks here this morning, about the vetting process for sponsors. for example, in the past, h.h.s. has sometimes failed to recognize that people who were sponsoring multiple unrelated children could also perhaps be human traffickers, that when they do that kind of sponsorship of unrelated children they could be engaged in human trafficking. or that sponsors have failed to ensure that children appear in immigration court. so i understand that h.h.s. has primary responsibility for vetting sponsors. but could you explain how d.h.s. is working with h.h.s. to ensure that sponsors are appropriately vetted to prevent human trafficking, to ensure children are placed in safe environments, and ensures that sponsors bring children into the immigration proceedings? secretary mayorkas: thank you, senator. we have achieved and are continuing to achieve efficiencies in the process. but never at the expense of the
quality in our administration of the processes. and that is quite evident in precisely the subject that you are focused upon, which is the vetting of the family, relatives, or sponsors of the unaccompanied children. . it is precisely why we did not take from our volunteer work force or our search capacity work force individuals unqualified to conduct that vetting. quite the contrary, what we did was deploy experts in the vetting of individuals with respect to their identity and their qualifications. we took asylum and refugee officers who deal with these very issues in the hottest spots around the world and applied their technical expertise and experience to the vetting of the sponsors. we are working as hard as we can to ensure that the mistakes of
the past are not repeated. we learned from mistakes and we move forward. that is precisely what we are doing in our support of the department of health and human services that does, indeed, have ultimate responsibility for that part of the process. >> thank you. medical professionals have noted that unaccompanied children apprehended at the border suffer trauma before they ever entered d.h.s. and h.h.s. custody. from being separated from their loved ones, being in the company of strangers, or mental and physical abuse prior to or during the journey to the united states. senator hassan: in a brief committee officials state that d.h.s. and h.h.s. were focused on building trauma informed procedures. secretary mayorkas, could you tell the committee about what d.h.s. has done and what you further plan to do to address trauma experienced by children before they are in custody and to reduce trauma experienced by
children while they are in custody? secretarty mayorkas: senator, we cannot overstate the trauma that some of these children have endured. it speaks to -- on the one hand the cruelty of some, but it also speaks poignantly of the resilience of the human spirit. it's remarkable what these children have gone through, but how they can see a better day ahead. it is our responsibility -- it is the responsibility of humanity to address the needs of these children. what we have done with our chief medical officers, extraordinarily talented and dedicated individual, is to see what these children have gone through, what their needs are, and to bring that health professional counseling at the earliest possible time in our operational processes.
and the department of health and human services and their expertise in this area to bring those resources to bear so that it exists throughout the period. and one thing why we speak of efficiency but not at the expense of quality is sometimes it takes an individual time to work through the trauma they have suffered and articulate the claim for relief that they have legitimately, under the laws that we have passed. we are very mindful of that. senator hassan: thank you very much. thank you, senator. senator carpo: not every day a former chairman of this committee is asked by the current chairman and ranking member of this committee to preside. and to recognize another former chairman of this committee to ask questions of former deputy secretary of the department of homeland security. it's great to see you again.
you are recognized. >> unprecedented. thank you, it is like old times. you have the gavel, i am sitting next to you, and we are in the misof -- midst of a crisis at the border. i know during my chairmanship in hearings we are always going through the problem solving process i would often say the first step in solving any problem is admitting you have one. and it just does seem like we are in a state of denial. i have a chart a little different than senator portman's. his is children. i've got total apprehensions at the border. senator johnson: it's galling, quite honestly, this is a crisis inherited by this administration. that the chairman is saying that the numbers are decreasing, the situation is improving. the surge started in april of 2020. to the extent we had any surge in 2020 because democratic
presidential candidates were saying we are not going to deport everybody and we'll give everybody free health care. that was a incentive. but it's very clear what's been happening. the crisis in 2008 -- 2018 and 20189 we had -- 2019, we had probably a little 4,000 apprehensions per day. we have for the four or five weeks been close to 6,000 per day. in 2014 we were dealing with around 2,000 per day. this is unprecedented what's happening here. when you talk about the trump administration dismantling things, what they did they ended catch and release. they ended the enormous incentive for people to come into this country and exploit our very generous societal laws. mr. secretary, real quick, isn't it true what cases are adjudicated in asylum, about 90% are denied? secretarty mayorkas: i don't
believe that is true. senator johnson: what is the real percentage, then? secretarty mayorkas: senator, i don't have the data right before me. senator johnson: please get that for me. let me ask you, have you done a cost study on how much money the taxpayers will waste, that's going to be expended by not honoring the contracts to build the final 250 miles of wall. have you figured out how much that will cost the american taxpayer and get a new wall built? secretarty mayorkas: senator, i certainly have taken a look at the expenses that were incurred in building the wall. and in my opinion how much waste was caused by that construction , when in fact, we could have leveraged innovation of new technologies that prove far more effective in securing the border. senator johnson: i know you are in a state of denial. go back to my chart. what the trump administration did is they ended the incentives.
so they put in place migrant protection protocols. then they threatened some tariffs to get cooperation from mexico. that's that line. you can see it worked. add to that the imposition of title 42, and it really worked. we pretty well stopped a robust surge of illegal immigration at the border. that was pretty much in effect. it started ramping up when democratic presidential candidates started talking about open borders and free health care. this is president biden's inauguration. here's the surge. that's a surge. let me talk about real numbers, too. at the height of the surge in may of 2018, it was about a little over 7,000 unaccompanied children per month. in march of 2020, right here, that had dropped about 3,000 after title 42 it dropped down
to 741 per month. that was the low point. in march of this year, almost 19,000. last month in april, 17,000. unaccompanied children. those are the numbers. we can talk about your percentages and tripling the numbers since april, but here's the problem. there's the surge. it is undeniable. yet you are denying it. and this is as close to open borders as we could possibly have. don't you think that's going to be an even more of a pull factor? secretarty mayorkas: senator, may i -- senator johnson: quick. secretarty mayorkas: may i have a minute to answer your question. senator johnson: that-s that going to be a pull factor or not? that's a yes or no answer. secretarty mayorkas: you asked a few questions. senator johnson: let me ask you some questions. i want to talk about the february 18 interim guidance to all i.c.e. employees in terms of carrying out force removal priorities. first of all was there any
analysis regarding how the new priorities would impact crime and public safety before that guidance was issued? secretarty mayorkas: yes. senator johnson: can you provide he those documents? secretarty mayorkas: i have worked as 12 years for a federal prosecutor. -- senator johnson: would you provide me those documents. yes or no? secretarty mayorkas: yes, i will. senator john son: was there any consultation or considered nation with starts regarding how new guidelines would impact law enforcement and public safety? secretarty mayorkas: one of the things i articulated in the promulgation of the guidelines that i will execute is that i will engage with the work force of immigration and customs -- senator johnson: yet s. did you engage and coordinate with state governments prior to that guidance being issued? yes or no. secretarty mayorkas: senator, do i not know what engagement proceeded me. senator john son: can you check and -- senator johnson: can you check and provide me that documentation. we are running out of time.
i don't want long answers. as local law enforcement is apprehending and holding illegal immigrants that they have flagged for removal, we have that group of people, is i.c.e. issuing detainers on every one of those individuals that local law enforcement's holding and that are flagging for removal? secretarty mayorkas: i'm sure they are not. nor should they be. senator johnson: can you tell me what percentage they would be issuing detainers on? secretarty mayorkas: i couldn't have -- don't have that percentage. i'll get that to you. senator johnson: i was shocked when we were at the border. i have heard the word -- we have more efficient. you have become more efficient at apprehending, processing, and dispersing. i was shocked when we went to the border and said the guidelines for cpb is process people in eight hours and disperse them. get them out of c.p.b. custody
and send them over the country. i was also shocked to find out we aren't issuing notices to appear. what percentage of people are bedispersing around this country that don't even have a notice to appear? secretarty mayorkas: senator, the individuals who arrive at our border and are placed in the interior are subject to immigration proceedings. and they receive a notice to appear. senator johnson: 100% are receiving a notice to appear, is that your testimony? secretarty mayorkas: the policy of our administration is that each individual is placed into immigration proceedings and receives a notice -- senator johnson: you are not aware c.p.b. has not provided notice to appear. that's your testimony? secretarty mayorkas: that is my testimony because the process is that u.s. customs and border protection issues a notice to appear. and if, in fact, they are
operationally not able to do so, the individual receives the notice to appear at an immigration and customs enforcement office. individuals in the interior are placed in immigration proceedings in accordance with enlaw enforcement law. period. senator johnson: i'll follow up with that with other information we have gotten. thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank secretarty mayorkas: thank you, mr. chairman, may i make a couple points i didn't have an opportunity to make? >> it's important to have these questions answered you may continue. secretarty mayorkas: one of the things the trump administration did was separate children from their parents. and they ripped sons and daughters out of the hands of fathers and mothers and said they would never see each other again. that's one of the things. maybe that worked. maybe it didn't. i'll tell you what it didn't work for is the values and principles of this country. number one. number two, --
>> mr. secretary, you may answer the question as you see fit. let's have an open forum to discuss the issues before us. you may continue. chair peters: you do have questions but your questions take up the full seven minutes. we would like the secretary to have an opportunity to answer these questions, senator. secretarty mayorkas: the only additional thing i would say is -- chair peters: you can answer the questions as they were asked. i appreciate it, mr. secretary. secretarty mayorkas: the only other thing i would say is that our enforcement efforts are focused on smart and effective enforcement that delivers the greatest public safety consequence. thank you. chair peters: thank you. senator rosen, you are recognized for your questions. senator rosen: thank you,
chairman peters. ranking member portman for holding this important hearing. secretary mayorkas, i really want to take this moment to thank you, commend you for your compassion and for your leadership navigating this critical moment. personally and professional and for the families that are going through this. before i ask my question, i will allow you to use some of my time if you have anything additional you would like to say, you can take that and then i can go into my questions. otherwise i can go straight in. mr. secretary. secretarty mayorkas: thank you very much for that courtesy, senator. i look forward to your questions. senator rosen: thank you. i really just want to talk about building on what senator hassan talked about, child welfare. and child welfare professionals. children in c.p.b. custody, poor conditions, the treatment hasn't been good. i worked with the last
administration trying to develop a plan to bring child welfare professionals to all c.p.b. facilities. unfortunately the previous administration ignored my request. to follow-up on some of the recommendations proposed by child welfare advocates, c.p.b. facilities current staffed with medical professionals with pediatric experience and child welfare professionals to provide that kind of wrap around services these children who are experiencing trauma or other issues that senator hassan brought up, do you have those folks at facilities? secretarty mayorkas: senator, we do have individuals with those capabilities and that expertise at border patrol stations. of course in march when we experienced such a great surge, we did not have the ratio that was optimal. our focus has been on moving the children out of the border
patrol station as rapidly as possible to ensure that they are in the shelter and care of the department of health and human services that does, indeed, have a greater level of that expertise as appropriately should be the case. senator rosen: thank you. i want to build on that. when we were working with the prior administration, they weren't really listening to what we were trying to ask them to do, do n.g.o.'s currently have access to c.p.b. facilities to assist and offer any care or programming that these children might need, the prior administration was not allowing that as well. secretarty mayorkas: senator there is some access. that is one thing we are taking a close look at. these, of course, when we were experiencing the greatest challenge that were operational capacity issues with respect to providing that access, but we believe that that access will strengthen the efficiency of the
system in all regards. it's one of the areas that we are keenly focused on as we are improving and strengthening the process from beginning to end. senator rosen: thank you. i'm going to move on. i know senator johnson talked about -- i am pleased that the biden administration took immediate actions to reverse several of the previous administration's cruel and misguided policies. i do remain concerned about the continuation of title 42, that policy that the trump administration used to expel migrants across the board, including children and families t. desperately attempting to come here for our asylum process. are you concerned that title 42 could still be a new source of family separation? it's just so painful in making migrant parents make that painful decision to separate from their children in order to find safety in the united states. what's d.h.s. doing to mitigate
the risk of family separation while tight had 2 is -- 4 -- title 42 is still in place? secretarty mayorkas: we are hearing anecdotally that some families self-separate to allow their children to enter the united states unaccompanied. that speaks to the trauma that these families have endured in their desperation to give their children a better life. our exercise of title 42 is the exercise of a public health authority to protect the american public. with respect to covid-19, as well as the migrants themselves. it's an exercise of authority that rests with the c.d.c. the issue that your question addresses is something that we are keenly focused upon. senator rosen: thank you. i know the prior administration as well when they were separating families we are still
concerned that the record keeping was not, i guess i'll say adequate, that's how we'll put that lightly and diplomatically. i want to be sure that if families are separating, if they are separating going on, that we know where children go, where their parents go. i never want to hear a story that some child could never find their parents again or don't know who they are. can you provide -- let us know that you're doing that and how you're doing that because keenly important to us. secretarty mayorkas: senator, i look forward to following up with you. i appreciate it. senator rosen: thank you. one last thing on title 42. we know that of course because of covid that lies not within your department. do you anticipate with the vaccines becoming more available that title 42 might be rescinded soon? do you have anything you would like to bring up about that?
secretarty mayorkas: senator, i don't have a timetable as i sit here today. i know that the senator for de -- center for disease control looks at the public health landscape in determining whether its authorities need to continue to be exercised. its responsibility is to look at that public health imperative and make that decision. and that falls within its jurisdiction. senator rosen: in my last 30 seconds, i'll take the response off the record. we know some migrants were removed by a tent court processing. they weren't given a fair process. are you considering -- we'll take this off the record, allowing those individuals to represent their cases? and some of those cases also that were the m.p.p. program that remained in mexico, they were closed. are you considering opening these tent courts and m.p.p.
cases. i'll take those off the record to allow the next senator to speak. chair peters: thank you, senator rosen. senator lankford you are recognized for your question. senator lankford: the last time you were here several months ago during the process of the nomination i asked you about the border wall. you said you were studying it. would study it. i understand the administration called for a study completed the 21st of march. none of us have seen the results of that study. there was a press release saying they were now protecting the border communities from the wall. when i was at the border, you have been down there as well a couple times, thanks for doing that, in arizona this is what i saw. the day that border wall construction stopped, miles and miles of wall with the gates incomplete, this seems to be the status that we are still at. this is nonsensical. the border patrol now has to park a vehicle right there next to that gap because on the other side of this fence is a city of 450,000 people on the arizona
side into mexico. my question to you is, what's the result of the study on the border wall completion? there is $1.4 million passed with a bipartisan majority last year that is in the law to be able to complete this. where's this going? secretarty mayorkas: thank you, senator. two things, if i may. number one, we have committed to finishing the levees as well as addressing the erosion of land under roads adjacent to the wall as two public health imperatives. we have made that decision. we are studying the very issue that you identify here about how are we going to address what is the most effective way to address gates and the completion of gates, as well as the closing of gaps. that is something that is under review now. senator lankford: this requires a review to evaluate whether you should hang the quite? secretarty mayorkas: the review is under way. senator lankford: what would be
the challenge here? i would tell you people in my state and myself included, when i went and looked at it, i don't understand what needs review to be able to evaluate if you have to be able to close the gate, especially when the law already has setaside those dollars and already there. let me follow up. you have given testimony about the notice to appear. we understand there's been 19,000 individuals that crossed the border that were not given a notice to appear. are you saying that's incorrect? secretarty mayorkas: senator, i am not aware of that number. if i may, say that it is our policy to issue a notice to appear to individuals who are permitted entry into the united states to make their claim. ideally, they are issued the notice to appear at the border patrol station. if we are not able to do that, the objective is to issue them a notice to appear at the immigration and customs enforcement office to which they are directed. there was a time when we were
unable to issue certain notices to appear and place those individuals immediately in immigration proceedings. senator lankford: our understanding being in texas and arizona talking to folks on the ground, we have the number of 19,000 individuals have been released into the country without a notice to appear. they are told to go to an i.c.e. office wherever they are going in the country to self-report at the i.c.e. office of the. basically turn themselves in at i.c.e. and ask for a notice to appear? do you know of any that have done that. a number of 19,000 that have been asked to do that. how many have done that? secretarty mayorkas: can i get that number to you because we have seen a high rate. and i should say, i should say that individuals do not -- who do not appear are a priority of ours for apprehension in the service of border security. senator lankford: i understand those are sneam units coming in. with at least one child they are told to do that. are the notice to appear being
given out, do they comply with the previous supreme court orders that have been done to make sure they are consistent and stand up under the rule of law? secretarty mayorkas: i believe they do. and i will confirm that, senator. senator lankford: please do. we have several supreme court rulings recently that have given greater clarity to those and want to make sure we are not giving something that will violate that. there was a court order about the moratorium. not to deport individuals even if a court had said they have a final order of removal. the biden administration announced that, a federal court in texas immediately said, no, you can't just do that. in the meantime since that occurred if i'm tracking the numbers correctly, i.c.e. removals have fallen anyway by 50% from january to april of this year. and by 70% from october to april of this year. i want to ask you, are you complying with the federal court order that ruled you can't just stop, you have to continue to be able to remove people at a final order of removal?
secretarty mayorkas: we are complying with the court order. senator, it was the policy was promulgated at the outset that there would be a pause on removals to enable the administration to review the policies. the court did, in fact, enjoin that pause and the pause was indeed lifted. and new guidelines were issued. senator lankford: pretty stark drop in removals that's already happened this year. the policy seems to be for i.c.e. removals and for enforcement priorities that -- it seems to be a high criteria at this point for removal of individuals. if they are not on the predetermined lists to be able to be removed, they have to get permission in advance to be able to remove someone. i.c.e. informed my staff on april 8 that enforcement action directed at sex offenders that do not meet the cry tear require preapproval from the field
office director or special agent in charge. my question is about this. can you chair with us today the number of sex offenders that i.c.e. has declined to deport this year because they did not meet that criteria? secretarty mayorkas: it's my view that individuals who commit sex offenses should be apprehended and removed. senator lankford: why is there a special request to get preapproval before you address that? secretarty mayorkas: senator, allow me to explain the process. i have yet to issue my enforcement and removal priorities. and i intend to do so after engaging with the i.c.e. work force, hearing from our personnel on the frontlines, as well as other stakeholders. senator lankford: there is a real concern about the additional hoops people have to go through which seems to discourage them. we see that in the numbers. a 50% drop. let me ask about title 42. when i was at the border that was major concern of folks on what to do on title 42.
you and i spoke about this the last time you were here saying you are going to study it and examine what to do on this this. there is a significant number people, of the 178,000 people encountered at the border last month, 111,000, almost 112 were turned around due to title 42. the question is, how are you examining, what's your criteria for dropping title 42, and what's your plan? because if you drop title 42 at this point, there are 112 thousand more people engaging across the border. secretarty mayorkas: senator, title 42 is the c.d.c.'s public health authority. senator lankford: correct. secretarty mayorkas: it's not a tool of immigration. it is a tool of public health. and therefore the use of title 42 will be governed by the c.d.c.'s analysis of the public health imperative. senator lankford: a public health imperative in mexico or the united states? secretarty mayorkas: with respect to the protection of the american people. senator lankford: that would be
where they are coming from. if they are coming across the border from mexico the health status there? secretarty mayorkas: i can't speak to the precise analysis that c.d.c. undertakes. and i would be very -- follow up with you. senator lankford: thank you for the additional time. this is a very important issue we start add couple months. we want clarity on that. this is a very serious issue how those individuals being returned what happens next. chair peters: thank you, senator romney you are recognized for your questions. senator romney: thank you, mr. chairman. i must admit that i found this hearing to be stunning in that it seems, mr. secretary, that you're proud of the progress being made by the administration ? that things are going well at the border. i look at this chart that was prepared by senator johnson and
i see an extraordinary crisis. do you recognize this as an alarming crisis? secretarty mayorkas: senator, i look at immigration as a challenge that has been persistent -- senator romney: of course. we were running along here and now we are seeing apprehensions at the border that have skyrocketed. just as alarming perhaps even more so is the chart that came from senator portman, which is unaccompanied children. who are being let into the country an explosion -- is this not a massive failure that would suggest that the administration needs to take immediate action to remedy what we are seeing here? secretarty mayorkas: senator, we have taken immediate action with respect to the unaccompanied children. and we have -- senator romney: is the number coming down? secretarty mayorkas: we are addressing that challenge with increasing efficiency every single day. senator romney: to get them
moved to other parts of the country and crowded facilities. i understand that. i'm delighted we don't have kids sleeping on floors and in cages. totally -- but, the number coming into our country and being released into our country is at skyrocketed level as is this. the question is, do you have plans to do something dramatically different since the numbers have come down to an acceptable level. this overwhelms our border patrol agents. if they have numbers like this they are dealing with, this means that the drug cartels can be smuggling through drugs because our folks are taking care of kids, they are taking care of people coming in illegally. do we have plans to dramatically address what's happening here? secretarty mayorkas: two points if i may, senator, both of which are extremely important. the laws of our country provide certain procedures and certain rights for children who arrive unaccompanied and have claims of asylum, who claim fear of
persecution by reason of their membership in particular social group. we have an obligation -- senator romney: we were turning those kids away under title 42 anti-new administration said we won't turn them away. we'll let them come in. i presume as a result of that the numbers went through the roof. secretarty mayorkas: senator, we are addressing the numbers consistent with the law. senator romney: propose a new law. we have a crisis -- you talk about the humanitarian concerns of kids that come here. i understand. we have addressed that. you are addressing that. they are children. think of them coming here all the way from honduras, the trial of going across the entire country of mexico to get here. then being -- not being able to come into the country. butt this up. this is a crisis for -- put this up. this is a crisis for children. the fact that these kids are coming here making that journey and they are not going to be
allowed to stay in this country. secretarty mayorkas: senator, if i may. with the united states of america, 90% of these children have a parent or legal guardian in the united states, and they have a claim of fear of persecution. senator romney: this is not a problem. your view is this is the way it's going to be. secretarty mayorkas: if i may, senator. they have a claim under the law for humanitarian relief. either their claim of asylum or their claim for special immigrant juvenile status. and we can, in fact, meet the challeng -- senator romney: what i find astonishing, mr. chairman, we have the secretary responsible for securing our border and our immigration system who doesn't recognize these charts as being a problem. and there are human beings behind these numbers. inwe have to make changes immediately. i find that extraordinary and
extremely damning. let me turn to a different topic. that is some years ago immigration was, if you will, the huddle masses yearning to be free. and we were encountering people who wanted to come to this country. we were able to offer them hope for a better life. today increasingly much of what we are seeing here is a result of cartels that have learned how to take advantage of current law in the united states to defeat our systems and not provide the people that are being brought here the opportunity that they were seeking. i think there's an urgent need to rethink our immigration system to make sure that we recognize we are dealing with the different circumstance in many cases than we were before. and a discussion of root causes, we need to address the root causes in latin america. gosh, we got root causes in our own country. we have challenges here we can't
solve. we have been working on for years. the countries arounded world who have problems. we can't solve all the problems of the world let alone the problems in latin america and the problems here in our country. do you agree with that that we have to focus on enforcing our border, finishing the border barrier, using the technology -- if it's technology, use technology. but somehow deal with this in an urgent and aggressive manner. secretarty mayorkas: senator, we are, indeed, focused on securing our border. and, in fact, using technology as the most effective -- one of the most effective ways of doing it. number one. number two, i do agree with you that we do need change in the law and that's precisely why i hope that congress does, indeed, pass immigration reform. and thirdly, these are people yearning to be free. with the cartels do, unfortunately, is too often control the means by which they
arrive, not the reasons why they flee and why they seek relief, humanitarian relief in the united states under the laws that congress passed many, many years ago. senator romney: you indicated last time together you would study e-verify, senator portman and i among others have proposed a mandatory e-verify system in our country. do you believe that's a good idea? florida is using that effectively. should we have an e-verify system for our country that's mandatory? secretarty mayorkas: senator, i believe an e-he verify, i think it is an effective tool. its effectiveness grew under my administration as director of -- senator romney: should it be mandatory? businesses are required to check the legal status of people they are hiring? secretarty mayorkas: whether it should or should not is something i have not yet determined. senator romney: i look forward to that determination. thank you. chair peters: thank you, senator
romney. i have a quick question, i think we should know, senator romney talked about the number of apprehensions occurring right now. that chart, if you could help me, when i was at the border i understand we are apprehending a lot of folks from mexico, single adults coming across. they are being expelled from the country. then they come back in a few days. you catch them they go back. is that reflective of those numbers? give some clarity to us if you have an opportunity to see that chart. secretarty mayorkas: it's very difficult for me to see. forgive me with my diminishing vision. i do understand your question. what is likely measured is the number of encounters and the number of encounters probably includes a great deal of duplication because there is recidivism. there is recidivism when an individual is expelled under title 42, a single adult, we have seen it, that same individual return only to be
expelled again. and that's one of the things that we are looking at in terms of a consequence regime. >> mr. chairman, i have the numbers and would like to enter the record. in the second round i'll spell those off. chair peters: senator carper, you are recognized. senator carper: thank you for your past service and current service to our country. i would like to take a minute of time to respond to any questions you didn't have a chance. secretarty mayorkas: thank you for the opportunity. i look forward to your questions. senator carper: a number of us had the privilege of traveling to northern triangle countries, honduras, guatemala, repeatedly in bipartisan groups. i hope to be part of one of those later this year. and look forward to some of the members joining at that time. remind you of scripture that when i was a stranger and you landed you welcomed me. i remind you a decision which
reflects and mirrors, i think very much, the message in matthew 25. it i think matthew 25 is a moral obligation that we have, including people trying to escape, violence crime and which we were implicit in by virtue of our addiction to illegal drugs trafficked through these countries. we are implicit in their missry. the cry question is, what are we going to do about it? i suggest what we do about it is walk and chew gum at the same time. we have some charts here that indicate what's been going on at c.p.b. in terms of how long we are holding kids and so forth. average number of hours, children in c.p.b. custody, what was it in march 23, 103 hours. what was it on may 11, 26 hours at c.p.b. custody. that's a reduction of 80%.
that's improvement. do we have another chart? number of children in the c.p.b. custody on march 28. 5,767 children were in c.p.b. custody, may 10, two days ago, we had 455 children in c.p.b. custody. -- c.b.p. custody, that's 92%. that's and improvement. marked improvement. i want to say tourks particularly the spokes at c.b.p. the department of health and human services whose work is making this possible could work. if we want to do something about these charts we have been shown by our colleagues, most recent surge, we can do something about that, my friends. we can do something about that. three primary reasons people are coming out of these countries to try to get up here. number one, lack of opportunity and hope.
number two, crime and violence. number three, corruption. numbers of number of years ago the idea we would put money into thite fighting those three ills, crime and crummings, crime and violence, corruption, lack of economic opportunity. the idea would he would provide money and return each of these countries would provide money, more than we would provide. number two, try to leverage money from other countries to help out in these three areas. to leverage money from n.g.o.'s to work and focus on these three areas. the most recent trip i took was to the border with a car dell about a month ago, and -- cardle about a month ago, we some indication this kind of progress could be realized. i want to take my hat off to the
c.b.p. folks doing this work every day. take my hat off to folks from h.h.s. who are taking a handoff and trying to do difficult work, important work, but in compliance. let me ask mr. chairman, how important is it, i'm going to ask you to be brief in your responses. we have not had a u.s. ambassador in honduras for four years. four years. no confirmed u.s. ambassador in honduras for four years. we don't have a u.s. confirmed ambassador in el salvador right now. we have a pretty good ambassador, i talked to him past week, highly regarded, i think he's doing a good job. if we want to do something about changing the numbers, why don't we confirm, why don't we get some -- from this new administration, they have had a chance to get their feet wet now, we need them to nominate career ambassadors, and we need to hold speedy hearings, and
vote them up or down. i think one of the best things we can do is put in place career ambassadors with senate confirmation, senate support. as much as anything. we need to make sure they are surrounded by terrific staff and the embassies in honduras, guatemala, and el salvador. they need to be the counter balance. the crooks and criminals down there that are using drug money that we provide continue to screw up those countries. that's the first thing we can can do. second thing we can do, i am going to ask a question, the ability for the young people, not so young people to apply for asylum within their own country, at our embassies and consequence lats, is that something we are doing a satisfactory job in doing? if not, is there something we on our side need to make that possible? secretarty mayorkas: thank you very much, senator carper. we are very focused on that. as i articulated in my opening remarks, we had a three prong
approach. to address the root causes, to build legal pathways, and to advocate for -- with the hope that congress will pass immigration reform. with respect to that second prong that's what your question goes to. the building of legal pathways. if we can adjudicate claims in the countries of origin or in truly safe places, then we will spare children the perilous journey north. senator carper: why is it important for congress to take up and pass comprehensive immigration reform? why is that important in this debate today? secretarty mayorkas: i think we all agree the one thing that there is unanimity about is the fact our current system is broken. we can provide fixes through the legislation that has been proposed and is pending.
senator carper: i'm not surprised but disappointed with the tenor of this hearing today. there's a problem here that needs to be addressed. a bunch of problems that need to be addressed. we are pointing fingers at one another and one administration to another, that ain't going to solve the problems. there are some things we can do and need to do. if we follow up and work together across the aisle. with this new administration, we can make great progress. we can turn this around. and i want to do that. i want to do it with all of you. thank you. chair peters: thank you, senator carper. i think hopefully all of us will come together because these are serious issues we need to deal with. senator scott, you are recognized for your questions. senator scott: first off, i'm appreciative you are trying to do your job with compassion. i don't think any of this is easy. everybody that's involved in border security is having a very difficult time.
i had the opportunity to go down to the arizona border with -- and when i went what shocked me was we did an aerial tour and they had the wall and you have heard all the stories. senator lankford brought it up, they didn't put up the gates. they stopped. you can't -- if you talk to people in the country look at that and say why would that happen? we need to use new technology that had the lights and cameras up, and they -- listen, you talk to border patrol, they didn't electrify it. it just stopped. right after january 20, it stopped. when you look at this, you say there is no logic to this. and i know we want to be a compassionate country, and we are a compassionate contry, we have drugs coming across our border. we have people that do -- peef sometimes criminals come across the border and wonderful people that want to come here.
when you and i talked about your confirmation, one thing you committed to me you are always going to enforce the law. do you believe that you and your agency are enforcing the existing immigration laws? secretarty mayorkas: yes, we are. senator scott: there are none you have concern are not being enforced? secretarty mayorkas: i believe we are enforcing the laws in a smart and effective way. and actually we will do so smarter and more effectively as the days and weeks progress. and i'm very focused on that. i'm looking forward to actually meeting with the i.c.e. work force in the coming days to hear from them as frontline personnel to learn of their experiences, to inform the guidelines that i intend to promulgate. senator scott: you have seen this chart. unbelievable increase in apprehensions and also the chart that showed how many unaccompanied minors. are you disappointed that president biden and vice
president harris have not taken the time to come to the border to see firsthand what a lot of us have seen, that there's clearly a crisis, that we have to -- you said it. there are things we have to address. are you disappointed that president biden and vice president harris have not taken the time to come to the border? secretarty mayorkas: absolutely not. the president and vice president have done is directed me to address the challenges at the border, which are within my responsibility as the secretary of homeland security. and i many have visited the border on multiple occasions thus far. senator scott: as i talk to sheriffs in florida, since the inauguration, and unbelievable increase coming into florida. the only thing they can say it has to be come across the border. according to c.b.p. data, drug seizures are down significantly this year. do you think the record low drug seizures are because our c.b.p.
agents and resources are being diverted to manage the humanetarian crisis at the southern border? secretarty mayorkas: no, our interdiction efforts continue effectively. we have a multiteared approach to the inter-- multitiered approach to the interdiction of drugs and contraband and dangerous individuals. we take great pride in the capabilities of the men and women of the united states border patrol. and quite frankly in the actions that i have taken. we launched operation sentinal to elevate and accelerate those actions. and as senator portman well knows, i overcame delays that preceded me in the promulgation of critical regulations to effect the stop act. which was a tremendous -- senator scott: why would seizures be down? it's the data coming out of the administration. secretarty mayorkas: senator,
i'd like to review the data that you have. and exchange data, because our interdiction efforts are quite effective and regrettably we are interdicting a great deal of contraband that predominantly does not come between the ports of entry. historically has come through other ports of entry into hidden parts of vehicles. the traffickers also use air assets, marine assets that we are interdicting as well. senator scott: do you -- does d.h.s. feel like it has a duty to remove illegal aliens convicted of serious crimes, especially assaulting a child or manufacturing illegal drugs? secretarty mayorkas: yes. senator scott: is that happening? secretarty mayorkas: yes. senator scott: can you commit that those individuals that are being released for future court dates, you talked about earlier, are clearly going to be deported
if their asylum claims are rejected? secretarty mayorkas: i'm sorry, repeat the question. senator scott: if somebody's come in and been released but their asylum claim is rejected, are they clearly going to be deported? secretarty mayorkas: they are subject to removal, yes. senator scott: are they going to be? secretarty mayorkas: as far as i negotiation yes. senator scott: do you believe it's happening now? secretarty mayorkas: i believe so. this is something i spoke to earlier, is address the asylum system and strengthening and improving it. so individuals who are actually eligible for relief and deserving of relief receive it in a reasonable period of time. and those who do not, the adjudications are delivered in a reasonable period of time, which is a problem that has plagued asylum system for years and years and years. senator scott: going back to the
wall and the technology that's not being connected to the electricity, why is that? secretarty mayorkas: senator, we approach this in a very methodical and reasonable fashion, in my opinion. which is the border wall in many respects was not the most effective use of taxpayer dollars to secure the border. the paradigm that had bipartisan support certainly when i served as the deputy secretary was a paradigm of different types of assets brought to meet the challenge. physical barriers that were in existence, the use of technology, and harnessing innovation to really be force multipliers, as well as, of course, the brave and heroic men and women of the united states border patrol. it is that three-part effort that's most effective. the methodology that was designed and is being implemented is put a pause on the construction of the border
wall, let's assess what is actually needed to be completed, for example the levees and the road erosion that we, in fact, have committed to. and let's take a look and see what does deserve and need to be continued and what really should be stopped. we are taking a look at the gates, the gaps, the deployment of sensors in those parts that have been completed, and what is reasonable to complete in the judicious exercise of taxpayer dollars. so that's what we are doing. senator scott: it sounds good. from the outside it looks crazy. the wall's up. the gate needs to go up. or the lights and cameras are all there and -- it just doesn't seem logical to the american public. secretarty mayorkas: i respectfully disagree, senator. i think it's a logical way to
approach. if we can actually save the expenditure of dollars on something that should not be the subject of expenditures, it would be terrific if we can forestall that and use those funds more effectively in a different way. chair peters: thank you, senator scott. senator hawley, you recognized. senator hawley: thank you for being here, mr. secretary. i want to talk about the policies that have gotten us to where we are which is effectively open border. let me ask you about this. as recently as this week the border is closed. is that still your position today? secretarty mayorkas: yes, it is. senator hawley: don't you think you bear responsibility in the current crisis by telling the world earlier this year, we are not telling you not to come, we are just telling you we are putting a system back in place in which you can come. don't you think people took your words at face value then? secretarty mayorkas: senator, i never said the border is open. senator hawley: we are not telling you not to come. how would you paragraphs that? secretarty mayorkas: senator, i
never said the border is open. i never believed it should be an open border. we have laws that congress has passed. that are laws of accountability. and also laws of humanitarian belief. senator hawley: you did say we are not telling you not to come though, right? you remember that. secretarty mayorkas: i'm sorry, senator. i apologize. senator hawley: you remember saying, don't you, we are not telling you not to come, those were your words. you said that, right? secretarty mayorkas: i don't recall saying that. i don't believe -- senator hawley: you don't recall saying that? secretarty mayorkas: i ever never said. senator hawley: we'll be happy to refresh your memory. the secretary said he doesn't have any memory of making those comments. that's extraordinary. secretarty mayorkas: senator, i have never said the border is open. senator hawley: c.b.p. data says the agency had 178,000 enforcement encounters at the southern boarder in april, the highest in two decades.
of that total what percentage were subject to immediate expulsion? secretarty mayorkas: i will get that data to you. don't have that at my disposal this morning. senator hawley: is it 100%? 60%? 20%? do you have any idea? secretarty mayorkas: 100% of families and single adults are subject to expulsion except for those with acute vulnerabilities . we exercise that discretion. however, our ability to actually expel families under c.d.c.'s title 42 authority is limited by, for example, mexico's ability and capacity, i should say, to receive the expelled families. and that is what we are addressing as a result. senator hawley: i think the number is around 60% or so are subject to immediate expulsion. we have a very large percentage of migrants who are permitted
entry into the united states and still here. we'll give that question again to you for the record so that you can go and look it up. let me ask you this. why is it that this week, late last night, it was reported that c.b.p. terminated a flight program that transferred families across the southern border for purposes of expeling them under title 42, these flights were apparently canceled due to the pressure of left-wing groups. is that accurate? secretarty mayorkas: senator, we make our decisions as we consider to be most effective in furtherance of our mission and not because of pressure by outside groups. i would be pleased to look into the cancellation of the lateral flights and respond to you after i have done so. senator hawley: you are telling me here the aclu had no role in the termination of these flights? secretarty mayorkas: senator, we are addressing the claims of the aclu, the aclu has claimed that our exercise of the c.d.c.'s
title 42 authority is not supported by the law. and we are working with the aclu, actually adverse to the aclu -- senator hawley: you are working with them? secretarty mayorkas: if i may. we are adverse to the aclu -- senator hawley: you are working with them in this program is that why you canceled it? secretarty mayorkas: if i may finish, senator. we are adverse to the aclu in litigation with respect to the legal authority underpinning our exercise of the c.d.c.'s title 42 authority. senator hawley: right. but they had a role in terminating this -- you are working with them in the determination of these expulsion flights. secretarty mayorkas: senator, the decisions with respect to expulsion flights are ours because of the decisions that we have made based on the reasons that we think are necessary to execute on our mission. senator hawley: i think the fact you are working with them is
interesting news. so that's also quite relevant. we'll give you this information as a question for the record. secretarty mayorkas: senator. there's silliness. we are defendants. senator hawley: you just said we are working with them. the news reports indicate you caverpbesled these flights at their behest. you and i both know there can be such a friend as friendly litigation, mr. secretary. let's not pretend otherwise. i'm repeating your questions. we'll give you this question for the record. that's interesting news. let me ask you about why you canceled the safe third agreements with the governments of el salvador -- >> we are leafing this hearing. the u.s. house is about to come in as part of our long time commitment to bring you gavel to gavel coverage of congress. continue watching this homeland committee hearing at c-span.org. the house today will be working on a debt collection measure with amendment debate and votes coming up this afternoon. now live to the house floor. on c-span. of th e house
proceedings for political or commercial purposes is expressly prohibited by the u.s. house of representatives.] the speaker: the house will be in order. the prayer will be offered by our chaplain, chaplain kibben. chaplain kibben: would you pray with me. holy god, our refuge and our protection, our shield and defense, into your hands we command our nation's police force. even as these mennd
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